T-Bucket Time Capsule: 1921 Ford Model T Hot Rod

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

Hot rod builders by definition build something new with old parts.  One of the most common hot rods built was what came to be known as the T-Bucket.    Built with a Ford Model T roadster body, everything else from there was within the rules.  From mild to wild, you could build one your way.  Even if that turned out to be an outrageous build.  If you would go to a minister’s funeral dressed in feathers, then maybe this is the ride for you.  Take a look at this 1921 Ford Model T based T-Bucket for sale on eBay in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Buy It Now price is $23,995, and bidding is up to $19,200.  Is that reasonable for a well-tended to vintage build like this?

T-Buckets used to be common in the hot rod community.  Over 15,000,000 Model T Fords were produced, so parts were never really scarce and were usually cheap.  Those first cars were built on Model T frames and the “bucket” was Henry steel as well.  As time wore on and bodies became scarce, fiberglass replica bodies became the builder’s choice.  With fiberglass, modifications to lengthen or widen your passenger compartment became available.  These were fun and fairly economical gateway drugs into the hobby, and many builds showed great creativity.

Some builds ended up as spare no expense show cars.  This T-Bucket is a perfect example.  According to the ad, it was built in the 1970s.  The brown color, brown vinyl and cloth interior, and the overall look are vintage 1970s.  Just looking at all the metal plating evident on this hot rod would also be a clue.  Replicating the brass work and chrome plating you see in the pictures today would be equivalent to the GNP of a developing country at today’s rates.  What isn’t brown is either chrome plated or brass.  Some of the brass pieces are modified original parts, but even these would be expensive to replicate or replace today.

The mechanicals also point to a 1970s origin.  This T is powered by a 327 cubic inch Chevrolet small block V-8.  A second hand 327, preferably from a junked or chopped Corvette, was the engine of choice at the time.  It is backed up by a garden variety Turbo 350 automatic transmission.  In the rear was a very popular but pricey choice at the time: a Jaguar independent rear suspension.  Of course, anything that could be chromed or polished back there received that treatment.

Looking at the interior we see a full height Model T windshield, wind wings, and functional brass cowl lights.  There is even a bulb horn for the classic look and maybe scaring something out of the way when the engine is off.  A modern set of gauges live in the dash and a Pioneer CD player is hidden somewhere in the cockpit.  Oddly, the dash is painted red, which does not seem to match the theme of the car.  At any rate, the steering column is treated to controls like an original Model T would have, and a T-type steering wheel with either real brass or brass plated spokes.

The rest of the interior is simplistic and seventies.  Brown vinyl and cloth seats with quite a bit of decorative stitching look fresh from the decade that brought us bell bottoms and disco.  The top even has an insert that matches the seat.  The back window is also in a geometric shape that you wouldn’t likely see on a modern build.  Everything looks to be in spectacular condition considering the build’s age.  So much so that you wonder if the car was ever driven.  Perhaps it just sat around at shows with mirrors underneath it to show off the brightwork.

The engine has a lot of neat features for a 327, such as an air scoop, funnels, twin carburetors, and an aluminum intake.  The exhaust is handled by a set of headers that likely made hearing aid manufacturers some money.  You can also see a set of Model T brass headlights and a large brass radiator that, while not an original Ford piece, blends in well with the rest of the car.  Even with a rather conservative tune, one would expect the power to weight ratio to make this a very fast car.  Thank goodness it has four-wheel disc brakes.  Too bad the front tires are rather narrow for the effective braking you would likely need.

In all, this is an interesting time capsule that will likely end up as a car to look at rather than drive.  While they may be fun to cruise around in, these aren’t the type of vehicle you drive long distances for fun.  This one was likely made for the show circuit, and it belongs in a museum or a private collection.  At the Buy It Now price, it is likely a bargain for someone looking to scratch that T-Bucket itch.  You couldn’t build it today for anywhere near that price.  The quality of workmanship and materials is just that good.

Have you ever owned or driven a T-Bucket?  What was the experience like?

Auctions Ending Soon

Comments

  1. Howard A. Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    For us crabby, sore back, toothless stalwarts,( you know who you are) THIS was the epitome of cool. When someone said “hot rod”, THIS is what they meant. Obviously, it’s nothing that could be driven today without an over-zealous trooper racking up the violations. Bumpers, fenders, wipers, exhaust, to name just a few. To be honest, as mentioned, this was for show only, and driven( or pushed) from the trailer to the display area. Still a draw at car shows, if that’s your thing, I’d have to think it’s incredibly unstable at any speed.

    Like 14
    • Dave

      Growing up in the late 60s I always read the latest CARtoons and loved Big Daddy Ed Roth. My neighbor’s dad bought a Model A in the 90’s, and after he passed on his mom asked if he wanted it. He said sure, no less entranced by Ed Roth’s aura than back in the day when he was a whippersnapper. His wife was 100% behind him, she encouraged him to build the car, as it was in pieces. He made the decision to honor the spirit of hand built and swore there would never be anything in there that was a bolt on.
      He wanted the Rat-Fink look and feel. He painted it green, his mother’s favorite color. There was alot of custom metal work, louvers, and aluminum panels. He used a blown small block chevy, just like nearly everyone else at the time. These little cars are all about the engine, a display case if you will. Ahhh, those were the days!

      Go ahead, get mad.

      Like 14
    • MTBorst

      Since you must be a couple centuries older then me (Not). Tad
      Yes, in from that era of now Grey hair and hearing loss. This was the utopia of HOTROD ! But you know as well as well as I do that this headers could accommodate glass packs to tone down that exhaust (unlike a harley). This is a beautiful example of let your mind do the modifications. As a young boy this was one of the projects I always dreamed of my dad and I working on. Alcohol got in his way 😔 but I still had a dream. This is a great price for this Sunday go to the park or church cruiser.

      Like 10
    • PairsNPaintMember

      IMBW, but I think registering it with “Antique” plates in most states will get you past those troopers.

      Like 5
      • Keith M Howard

        Here in Nevada, registered my 32 as a model A replica. Put personal tags on it and almost drive it every day.

        Like 0
  2. Harvey HarveyMember

    Wow! At that price it looks like a deal. Don’t think you could build one for that.

    Like 17
  3. bobhess bobhessMember

    No shortage of fine craftsmanship on this one. History note: in the late ’70s I bought a complete Jag rear end assembly for $50. Sold it a few years later for $200. Saw one advertised not long ago or 10K. Hindsight sure doesn’t do any good now, especially since my rear view eyeball died years ago.

    Like 12
    • T. MannMember

      “Moderated” means bobhess note above is about to be erased

      Like 2
      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse MortensenStaff

        Nope, that means it isn’t going to get erased.

        Like 3
      • T. MannMember

        In the last day 4 posts about this car have disappeared.

        Like 2
      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse MortensenStaff

        @T. Mann – Only repeat questions about the “moderated” text. I’ve modified the code to not sure that anymore. Thanks.

        Like 0
  4. TheOldRanger

    Looks like a “mini” Munsters machine….

    Like 12
  5. Melton Mooney

    The price is definitely right, I guess. These things are light and quick, and usually pretty squirrelly even with a stock motor. I’ve known a couple of guys who had t buckets, and they didn’t drive them very often. I’d rather put the $ into something with more of a purpose…something safer, like a motorcycle.

    Like 9
  6. Kenneth Carney

    Saw quite a few of these in Peoria Illinois in 1970. This style was very
    popular with rodders in California and
    the pages of Rod & Custom Magazine
    were full of them. And yes, some folks DID drive them from California to the first Nats, and I’m sure they
    regretted it after returning home from
    the big Show in Peoria that year. The
    big draw there was Andy Brazio’s
    Instant T with its truck paint, blown
    engine, and gobs of chrome. My
    favorite T bucket was driven down to
    the show by a fella from Minnesota.
    While not as flashy as the Instant T,
    his was tastefully built sporting a ’53
    331 V-8 with 3 deuces backed by a
    same year Hydramatic tranny. In true
    ’70s form, the Caddy mill was dripping with chrome. Like this car, it
    was configured the same with cycle
    rims up front and big meats in the
    rear. The body was painted either
    dark blue or black. Either way, that
    car just oozed cool!! In some of the
    pictures I found on YouTube, there were a lot them that showed up and
    were built just like this one. Even
    Tom Daniel’s Uncertain T was there
    complete with its fuel injected 401
    nailhead Buick. Sure is nice to see
    one of these again.

    Like 8
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse MortensenStaff

      Who knows? Most likely the report link was accidently clicked a few times. The report link sure has bothered a few of you but the funny thing is that we are actually letting more comments through now. Please don’t make me regret it!

      Like 4
    • Howard A. Howard A ( since 2014)Member

      Jesse, it’s time to deploy the “wink-wink” Suburban, 370zpp knows too much,,, :0,,,btw, I think a link, which I don’t see, automatically triggers “moderated”, not that the comment was necessarily reported.

      Like 0
  7. Howie

    Yes this looks great, they have another one listed and a Zimmer Clenet.

    Like 2
  8. Greg B Greg BMember

    You could not give these away a few years ago. I remember seeing them for sale around 10k to 15k and thinking it was a steal. The problem is driving them and not getting pulled over for not complying and getting fix it tickets. Great though for trailing to shows of that’s your thing.

    Like 5
  9. Maggy

    Was this Herman’s summer car when him and lilly could take a cruise without grandpa in the middle?

    Like 5
    • Dave

      It would be great for Halloween night.

      Like 3
  10. Tony T

    “CD player” … can one hear ANY tunes? Does the AC operate? Phoenix gives you 3 months of “driving” temp …

    Like 1
  11. Big C

    Bucket T’s. Fast and evil handling with zero creature comforts. Perfect!

    Like 7
    • maggy

      now that you say that about 25 years ago I was at a bar by Palwaukee airport and my buddy knew the bartender and she actually had a t bucket with a modded sbc. My buddy took me for a ride as she wanted him to drive it so I went too and listen for a noise and he let that that thing rip and all I remember yelling at him was was get me outta this thing and turn around at the next light. Yeah they don’t feel to safe to drive in and he was a mad man behind the wheel.

      Like 7
      • rabadooMember

        “they don’t feel to safe to drive in…..” And, ahhhh….. Where’s the problem Sweet Pea?

        Like 1
  12. Mark

    Very cool, I would have put a big block in it but, it is reasonably priced.

    Like 1
  13. Marshall Belcher

    This is a very nice rod.well built. Not speaking for everyone but my first thought is chances of surviving or getting crippled or paralyzed getting hit in one of these, the way people drive. Their just isn’t enough protection.

    Like 2
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse MortensenStaff

      Sheesh, what a downer…

      Like 9
    • MTBorst

      Marshall, you should probably stay home and pray lightening don’t strike you ! Everything we do in life has injury and death risks ! Don’t eat, don’t drink water, don’t go outside ! Yes, today’s drivers are arguably horrible ! Some are even our age. 🙄

      Like 5
    • Big C

      Try just walking down the street on the south side of Chicago, say around 9pm. The Bucket T would be like your mother’s arms. Just sayin’.

      Like 1
  14. Lowell Peterson

    Took a 100+ mph ride after midnite in ’62 down Pacific Coast Hiway with a huge contingent of drive in cruisers. Wrong side of the hiway too. Just passing some laggers! Long enuf and low enuf they go straight. That one ran 160! At the Nationals!!!

    Like 3
  15. Lowell Peterson

    Oh yeah! Blown hemi , dual quads 2 speed side shift trans! All biz!

    Like 2
  16. Steve

    I always imagined getting halfway up to speed in one of these and the top blowing off and the windshield in your lap.

    Like 3
  17. Don Foote

    Not to nit pick but I believe the first T buckets started the the front portion of a Model T touring car not a roadster? I never owned a T hotrod but owned several As and a few Ts. My “hotrod” back in the day was a chopped channeled sectioned 29 A pickup running an Olds 303 through early Ford drivetrain. It was a deathtrap but was usually off the road for repairs – sold it in Dallas circa 1980, the guy that bought it removed the Olds motor and abandoned it in apartment parking lot and installed a Mopar 440…I traded it for a beat up 69 AMX. Fond memories.

    Like 3
  18. Joe Haska

    Nice write up about T Buckets. It all started in 1955 with Norm Grabowski’s car on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine, the next car that got a lot of attention was Tommy Ivos’ T with a Buick engine of course. I know I loved these car’s until I rode in one or better yet drove one. No doubt this B/F car was around 1970 at the height of their popularity. This particular car is exceptional and truly represents the best of that era of the T Bucket builds. The price is probably fair, but I think the only place it will fit is in a private collection or a museum.
    The cars became very spectacular or even car-tuneish, driving one was scary and sometimes, I wasn’t sure if people were admiring it or laughing at it?
    However, even now driving a 32 highboy ,I have the same feeling, do people really know what it is or are they simply smiling because they have no idea what they are looking at. I have been fortunate to meet and visit with both Grabowski and Ivo , I just wish I would have asked them more questions about what they thought of the T Bucket phenomenon. I spent a lot of time with Norm and he never said, but it was common knowledge that T-Bucket kicked off his career as a Hot Rod celebrity. The T-Bucket is no doubt a big part of Hot Rod History.

    Like 7
  19. Lee

    Anyone remember the 1/8 scale model of a bucket T like this? I had one when I was a kid in the 60’s. All I can remember was it had actual steering and it must have been around 16″ long.

    Or the see-thru V8 engine with moving parts?

    Like 6
    • 370zpp 370zppMember

      Lee, I had that model you described. My father built a base for it and there were small ropes and poles set around the perimeter. I also seem to recall the top was white and made of soft plastic.

      Like 3
    • DON

      Monogram Big T street rod kit

      Like 1
      • Lee

        Thanks for the correct name Don. I can’t believe you can still buy one in the box on Ebay for $165! If I wasn’t moving to California I’d buy it. If you ever get to CA, you have to check out the National Roadster Show.

        Like 0
  20. moosie moosie

    If anyone here also uses FACEBOOK look up Randy Bianchi, he has one and often times posts pictures of his exploits with it like a trip from his home state of New Jersey to California, Its a looker for sure running a Big Block Chevy.

    Like 5
  21. moosie moosie

    Heres one owned by a close friend of Randy Bianchi’s,

    Like 7
  22. Idiot Boy

    Lean and Mean and Super Clean

    Like 7
  23. Jeff

    Beautifully executed T !! Probably couldn’t buy the parts for the asking price. All the proper boxes checked, brass headlights and rad cover, lantern taillights, jag rear end, front wite wheels etc and nicely detailed chevy motor( I know, not a ford, but no ugly distributor showing). I’m pushing 70 and still love these things.

    Like 5
  24. PairsNPaintMember

    I’m surprised no one picked up on that sweet ersatz “quick change” differential cover as well. They ain’t cheap. This is a beautiful build, would love to have it in my garage.

    Like 4
    • Steve

      Well hell I picked up on it I might have typed something if it didn’t have one Back in the day every magazine car seemed to have one.

      Like 4
    • MTBorst

      My friend had a quick change in his mustang with a 289 hi-po. He changed the rear end and went down to Florida from Michigan for a 3 day weekend ! Gas was under 25 cents a gal.

      Like 0
  25. David Scully

    Setting the tone for a later use of the Grabowski copy (remember “Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb?”), TV Tommy Ivo’s Buick-powered bucket (taken at Norm’s Drive-in) in LIFE magazine made SoCal hot rods internationally known. Ivo said the ride to the photo shoot was OK, but the drive back to Burbank late at night was brutal…

    Like 2
  26. John Traylor

    Who is the seller, Herman Munster?

    Like 2
  27. John

    The bidding has ended on this As of 10am March 15,2023..$22,000.00 Someone get one heck of a deal.. Wish i’d seen it earlier, As it would of found a new home in Western Kansas.

    Like 3
    • Howie

      John, yes it went to $22,000 but reserve not met. You can still buy it.

      Like 3

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds